Wine Tour Day

March 7, 2012 by Zoe Flanagan

If one is to go on a wine tour, while living out of a van, then one is faced with a dilemma. This is a dilemma of hygiene and overall appearance. Now while I would love to believe I am confident enough to walk into a tasting room as is, I am NOT that confident. So our day of wine first required a morning of showering.

Since we were too cheap to pay for a campsite, showering ended up consisting of a travel shower hung from a tree. The tree was a mere 100 yards from the main road, and five yards from a fisherman road for the nearby stream. Two parts warmed up water, to one part cold water, and voilà, “shower.” After achieving a more acceptable level of cleanliness, I donned my one travel dress and some nice-ish flip-flops, and we were off to the wineries.

Before I continue, I will claim now, or rather admit here that I know very little about wine. I cringe a little whenever anyone describes a wine. I fear the moment someone may ask me what I thought about “that one.” In my mind, most of the time, the response is, “I liked it,” or “I didn’t really like it.” But neither of those responses ever seems appropriate. While in the wine realm, I get a daunting feeling that my responses must be a minimum of at least 100 words. But, since I do enjoy a good glass of wine (or at least I assume it is “good”) I dragged Jeramie to five Marlborough wineries.

We began at a biodynamic and organic winery called Seresin, where an Argentine Kiwi introduced us to the complex methods of biodynamic wine making. To sum up this method, as she did, the process is similar to what it was two hundred years ago. In comparison to today’s methods, there are simply nine additional steps in wine making. These nine steps allow the winery to operate entirely self sufficiently. Along the organic track, the goal is a more holistic farm, where the wine is a result of many crops and thoughtful processes. This information greatly pleased Jeramie since he was nearing the end of reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. Isn’t it funny how the book you are reading always finds a way to pop up in your daily life?

We shared our tasting with a couple from Seattle, again a sign that no matter how far you go, you’re bound to run into home. The wine was yummy and it was accompanied by a delicious olive oil tasting. The oil was a fun mix of citrus flavors, including a lemon, lime and orange olive oil.

After Seresin, we drove a short distance to the Framingham winery. Now while I found one of my favorite wines of the day here, I was not nearly as fond of the environment. The winery is British owned and the woman offering the tasting was a sort of forced friendly. Maybe I was uncomfortable simply because we began our tasting along with a British group, all of who were in the wine industry.

BUT, it was at Framingham where we learned that New Zealand specializes in Rieslings. I usually shy away from such sweet wine, but we were both pleased by New Zealand’s dry version of the white wine. The “Framingham Dry Riesling” in particular took Jeramie and I by surprise. It was described, as having a “creamy finish,” yet was still dry. The description was perfectly accurate, probably the first Riesling I’ve enjoyed.

Along with the dry Riesling, two wines stood out the most at Framingham. First was the “Framingham Gewurztraminer.” I have to concede now to the description offered to us of this wine, since I will not do it justice. I know, I know, I already admitted to hating descriptions of wines, but I think I hate describing them more.

Plus, this description is pretty accurate. 😉

Power, ripe varietal flavours of stone fruit, exotic cardamom-like spices, green ginger and lychee, with hints of toffee cream fudge. Rich, fat, yada, yada, yada, you get the idea.

The second wine was the “F-Series Montepulciano Rosato.” It was described as having “delicate flavours of strawberries, rhubarb and raspberries and cream with a dry finish.” The description goes on, but I will just sum it up with my usual, “it was yummy.” So we grabbed a bottle and headed out of the British winery, ready for some lunch.

We settled on the Wairau River winery for lunch. Embarrassingly, this decision came as a result of it offering free Wi-Fi. But the meal was delicious! Lunch for me was a yummy yummy mussel chowder with beautiful bread. For Jeramie, a high stacked, somewhat over the top, lamb mint burger. The burger included, but was not limited to, roasted eggplant and zucchini, onion jam, garlic aioli, and beets on the side. This was by far the best meal we have had while in New Zealand. AND while we waited we were invited to have a complimentary wine tasting, not too bad.

In addition to wonderful food, we were joined for lunch by the couple from Seattle. While we ate our hearts out, we laughed over the communal addiction to free Wi-Fi and relished in our amazing luck at being in such a beautiful place.

After lunch, Jeramie and I headed for our last two wine tastings. We couldn’t resist these last two, since one claimed to have both a free tasting and “the best view in the valley,” while the other claimed to be the “red wine specialist.”

While the view at Highfield was indeed one of the best, its wine was neither the best nor free. Fromm Winery on the other hand, was a perfect way to end our day. Our server was a delightful middle-aged woman, whose glasses had an unfortunate magnifying effect on her clumpy mascara. During our tasting, she excitedly gave us an interesting lesson about NZ wine, the core of which was about how “young” New Zealand wine drinkers were. She explained how the wine industry itself was very young. Until recently, New Zealand had been mostly a country of beer drinkers. This point actually supported a statistic Jeramie had read the previous day. He read that in 1998 there were approximately 2,600 hectares of vineyards in Marlborough, and by 2007 there were over 23,000.

Our server also mentioned that approximately 95% of Kiwis drink their wine within twenty-four hours of purchase. She pointed out that this was a sign of how young the Kiwi drinkers were; now I have to admit at this point I had drunk enough to be a little confused. At first I thought she was claiming this data showed the age of the average Kiwi wine drinker. BUT, instead of course she was alluding to the lack of education and appreciation of wine amongst Kiwis. The number of wine cellars in homes here is very low, showing again how the population has yet to accept or embrace the bourgeoning wine industry. This fact of course troubled the wine industry somewhat; since it is private collectors they count on to stay open.

Along with our NZ wine lesson, Jeramie was pleased to confirm his fondness for Syrah and Malbec. Since it was Jeramie’s first wine tour, it was also his first opportunity to try all varieties of wine and see which he prefers. The last two wines of the day, the Syrah and Malbec, ranked high on his list. Up until now he had believed these were his “favorites,” so he was VERY happy to see that he was indeed correct. So we ended the wine tour by buying the “2009 Fromm La Strada Syrah.”

That night we drove down the coast in search of a recommended coastal freedom camping spot. We found the spot easily, and quickly curled up with our books. A storm was brewing on the ocean and we had front row seats. My new book, The End of Poverty, proved to be too much to handle after a day of wine. I fell asleep before eight, and Jeramie soon followed. We both missed dinner and slept nearly 12 hours. 🙂

Posted in New Zealand |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *